Low productivity not our workers’ fault: WP’s Low

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang has slammed the PAP government for seemingly suggesting that Singaporean workers have only themselves to blame for their low incomes, because of their low productivity and skills. He said it was easy to blame our local workforce for low productivity when it was the Government which opened the floodgates to foreign workers.

Workers’ Party chief Low Thia Khiang has slammed the PAP government for seemingly suggesting that Singaporean workers have only themselves to blame for their low incomes, because of their low productivity and skills. He said it was easy to blame our local workforce for low productivity when it was the Government which opened the floodgates to foreign workers.

Low was speaking Parliament on Tuesday in response to the Finance Minister’s Budget 2010 speech last week.

The Opposition leader pointed out that manual workers like cleaners and garbage collectors in developed economies are paid so much more than their counterparts in Singapore, attributing this to those countries’ more compassionate and effective policies to ensure that workers at the bottom of the economic ladder enjoy a decent and dignified life. Referring to the Government’s latest productivity drive, which is to grow productivity by 2 to 3 per cent each year over the next decade, Low wondered if low wage workers had to wait another 10 years for the wage increases which they had not seen in the last 10 years.

Low lamented that Singaporean workers are constantly told by the Government to “up-skill, re-skill, multi-skill, be cheaper, better, and faster”. He accused the Government of “squeezing every drop of effort and energy from our workers to achieve its desired GDP numbers”. He felt that the ‘growth at all costs’ strategy initiated since the late nineties resulted in the present state of our economy where low wage earners are growing dependent on state-funded handouts to subsist. He charged that for Budget 2010, the Government is using their same conventional wisdom to address the fundamental problems caused its policies of the last decade.

Abolish the foreign worker levy

Low called the Government to take a bold step to remove the foreign workers levy completely, and instead use the Dependency Ratio to control the growth of foreign workers in Singapore. (The Dependency Ratio sets how many foreign workers a company is allowed to hire for each Singaporean worker. The current ratio ranges from 1 Singaporean for every 7 foreign workers in the construction sector, to 1 is to 5 in the marine sector.) He reasoned that employers will save on the foreign worker levy they currently pay, and this could be used to benefit their local workers, including providing more training for them to improve their skills to become more productive.

Low also questioned whether the proposal to increase foreign worker levies was a revenue-enhancing exercise. He calculated that the Government collects about $1.6 billion in foreign worker levies each year.

Continuing education for older workers

In order to provide more adult continuing education programmes to cater to the needs of older Singaporeans, Low suggested starting a community college for citizens of all ages, especially older Singaporeans.  He said the college should have no or minimum entry requirements, offering courses that are totally modular. This would allow senior citizens to earn credits towards a degree or simply for self-enrichment purposes.

The PAP’s response

Responding to Low, PAP MP Josephine Teo criticised his suggestion to remove the foreign worker levy. She said: “To try and introduce an alternative system to a pricing mechanism is a very dangerous suggestion to make. It opens up a whole pandora box (sic) of the difficulties we have to overcome.”

Teo was dutifully following the PAP’s modus operandi of labelling any bold idea suggested by an Opposition MP as “dangerous”. She said that without the levy, foreign workers will be cheaper and more attractive to businesses, and some will find loopholes to get round the quotas, to get cheaper workers, “affecting jobs for Singaporeans”.

She did not explain what loopholes businesses would find to get around a higher dependency ratio, in a country which is renown for very strict enforcement of laws. She also seemed oblivious to the fact that it was the PAP government which opened Pandora’s box of troubles by allowing in so many unskilled foreign labourers over the past decade, and in the process depressing Singaporean workers’ wages and our nation’s productivity.

In a flash of presumptuousness, Teo declared: “I can speak on behalf of the union leaders that we totally and firmly reject Mr Low’s disastrous suggestion that we remove the foreign worker levy as it will harm our workers’ interest.”

Author: Gerald Giam

Gerald Giam is the Member of Parliament for Aljunied GRC. He is a member of the Workers' Party of Singapore. The opinions expressed on this page are his alone.

13 thoughts on “Low productivity not our workers’ fault: WP’s Low”

  1. Our Prime Minister should set a good example himself by improving on his own productivity by reducing the no. of Deputy Ministers, Ministers and other highly paid Parliamentary Secretaries assisting him in the Prime Minister’s Office. Do we find such a situation in other nations where a Prime Minister needs 7 or 8 Ministers apart from the rest of the cabinet to govern a country ?

    Why is it that the impression that I get is that our own Prime Minister is being overshadowed by our Minister Mentor, his own father who is approaching his nineties and who instead should be resting at home to enjoy his twilight years instead of toiling in and out of visiting foreign countries on behalf of the PM son. Isn’t it strange that Singapore has such an indisposable leader that it will be havoc if he ever dies ?

    What is worse is that our own Prime Minister seems to be involved in petty activities like visiting junior colleges which should appropriately be delegated to the Minister of Education, isn’t it ? If he is sick and could not take the stress of a Prime Minister’s job, he should give way to others. Why is it that our Prime Minister is still looking for his heir apparent ? Is there none qualified enough to take over his present job ?

    If nothing is done to beefed up the PM’s Office, any other plans to improve productivity is just empty talk !

  2. ““To try and introduce an alternative system to a pricing mechanism is a very dangerous suggestion to make. It opens up a whole pandora box (sic) of the difficulties we have to overcome.””

    As usual, this famously good-for-nothing boot-licking female MP is shooting herself in the foot. When the revamped system can increases the coffers’ revenue and profit, it is okay to try and introduce the system ASAP and passing those policy with totally no objection (so she means that changing increasing levy charge or add more ridiculous PayAndPay charge to pricing mechanism is NOT a very dangerous suggestion ?). Whereas if system reduces the profit of the gov, it is a dangerous thing to try. Just look at her twisted logic which typical of moronic Pappy.

  3. Easy to rebut and sing the tune of the incumbent party where you have the majority vote. I don’t see how your response have helped Singaporeans, Josephine.

    I wonder if you are still an MP representing Singaporeans, or an MP representing PAP. For heavens’ sake, you are in a parliamentary sitting to REPRESENT your constituency and PEOPLE.


  4. If J Teo can represent all the union leaders in Singapore, unions must be lackeys of govt. No wonder our workers are unable to fight for their rights. As LKY said, w/o foreigners, no one would do the dirty work. Maybe Govt should start thinking by paying high ministerial level salaries to our Singapore construction workers so that they can “SACRIFICE” to build our craved IRs!


    The Voice of Righteousness(for OUR NATION LONG TERM BENEFITS)

    Reason why I am posting in the internet at this early hour of final day before cooling day(I am not a good writer) :

    I just love my country Singapore which I was born. I want to contribute to our people. And I really want our country to grow healthily and with morals and ethics and compassion, as much as our citizens want.
    The following state of mind of mine many of us may not want to see through this article.

    But Please let me do an analysis why most GRCs and SMCs contests ARE ALL LOST to Ruling Party INCLUDING ALJUNIED except maybe Hougang. Real Democracy is LOST. AND SEE THE LONG TERMS PROS AND CONS BELOW……

    See Below Notes

    1) ONE MAIN REASON of Failure of this election is because Traditional Media, for example Newspaper Like Straits Times, New Paper, Today. TV like channel 8, Indian channel and Malaysia channels Suria, Channel News Asia and also radio channels. And who listens to these channels?

    It is the less internet savvy common people who outnumbers internet users by 20-30% at least(that is lots of votes, we need 5 to 10 years before we can catch up with to at least match the traditional media population, although now our internet take up rate is 70-75%

    BUT how many common folks even internet savvy or abled are politically that upright and concerned? Which is much lesser even when they are internet savvy), which is especially more senior, elderly folks, people who are handicap and cant walk and cant walk well due to old age and also those too busily working fighting for these survival…

    Thats why the ruling party is controlling us with very smart IRON FISTSSS for 50 over years, THROUGH THE TRADITIONAL MEDIA.
    They are also using traditional medias to drive traffic to their various websites like facebooks and also http://WWW.GE.SG which is quite biased favourably towards ruling party. How SMART.
    THEY ENSLAVE the people to work hard and fast till we cant work still cant receive our CPF and retire well, how sad and disappointing and they are brilliant money makers WITHOUT EVEN USING WHIPS, and occasional giving us very very small carrots year after year.

    page 1 of 6

    WE should promote to people to listen to all media to all sides of stories or at least 2 sides of the story. We need to let them know Media is biased and untrue about some stories, at least let the public take traditional media with a pinch of salt.

    Other important but not as major REASONS as above :
    2) Ruling party apologized, toned down to mellow to gain sympathy, empathy and swing votes and more neutral votes or rather their usual old supporters who fear changes and also fear of anarchy which will not happen as during 1959 our ruling party were having issues and with the resilent of our people and not just government we pulled through, also during 1965 our national building thanks to the old guards of Goh Keng Swee and many old MPs and ministers, and they are now focused on policies, which they would win back 5-10% of the votes, enough to break the opposition by GREAT numbers!!

    3) Cooling day magic may see lots of surprise reports / accusation about opposition parties or their members. AlsoThey are actually depriving all voters of chances to last minute evaluate the situation by talking to opposition parties also.

    4) PAP average speakers are better speakers and given more airtime and radio time from traditional medias(maybe selected from ruling party tea parties, not using our public money?)

    5) Digging out opposition parties and opposition candidates old issues which might not be valid like privatization of hougang HUDC when the hougang accounts are intact and ruling parties are not giving full details, both parties need to clarify but not at this point of time.

    6) From what I understand, the ruling party got a team of advisers to teach the ruling party candidates about how to write, speak, dress, public speak, address issues, make newsletters and magazine, and put them into newspaper.

    7) GRC created and also democracy dead from that day, and also our feedback system of election is distort until few years later till next election it is too late.

    8) electorate is biased towards the ruling party and the rally rules bias including cooling day.
    9) Using Anchor ministers like George Yeo, Wong Keng Seng to be a shield to gain political compassion, how smart.
    10) Using HDB upgrading and MRT and estate and facilities upgrading to lure voters.
    11) The ruling trying to control using websites like http://www.GE.SG

    12) Also Take for instance after seeing yesterday night tampines rally by NSP(my hometown), I think MBT can still win Tampines by a HUGE margin(at least 10 more percent).

    page 2 of 6

    So Sorry to say that… (MBT is good businessman really and I really don’t like him as he is draining our money.)
    a)Because the NSP team new members are mostly not public speakers(although they might speak from their hearts glad to say that).

    b) Also some of them did not capture the hearts of people from the beginning to the end.

    c) The opposition parties did not cover enough the blocks of HDB and condos when elderly people, senior folks and people who wants alternative voice or rather representative voice of opposite MPs from Tampines will be heard. I suggest those not so good in public speaking(example speaking too emotionally, some are too soft, some are too monotonous tone, some dont catch rhythm well, eye contact if media is catch no enough) will go to visit in buddies system to reach out to as many residents as possible as tomorrow is the final day.

    d) Luckily guest speaker Tan Kin Lian-ex nutc income CEO(spoke many good points like our hdb cost and transport cost too high, but abit too soft but can be better voice projection) lift up some spirits to gather swing and rational votes, followed by Goh Meng Seng(can be better) and also Nicole Seah(rational yet to the point and simple).

    e) Speak of pros and cons and give example for end of chapter of speech and also try to back it up with substantial information and quotes.

    f) Talk more about plans, dont be too radical do it progressively as it may scare voters.

    g) I agree with Mr Goh Meng Seng on high housing price and also compassion of gov is lost which renting house to foreigner for more profit than to rent to Singaporean and left alone to sleep openly in void decks, streets and also parks like east coast. Luckily he mentioned they are not anti-foreigners but must take care of citizen housing and other rights first which saved abit of vote, if not some good number of votes. Also opposition parties please please say about good to have PR and new citizen but seriously the balance of managing these foreign people were lost and they need to

    i) Also Miss Nicole Seah cost of livings points which she spoke sincerely and close to our hearts. She present well with very well tone(not emotional but sincere and not pushy)

    j) Good points of candidate to say give discount to hdb flats, but seriously for example I would rather want to let ruling party every year give us back 20k of rebate since we got that much reserves for the next 5 years(but ruling party will say it is saved for rainy days, if it is unaccounted for and unaudited but we cant even use to pay our internal debts of housing and cost of livings to save fire what is the

    page 3 of 6

    use of having some much reserves and CPF when there is minimum sum policy which is more than 110k-120k for each person), instead of the petty handouts(or sweets) or rebate(which sends shivers to my spine and mind.

    Sorry, Even Hougang may not be safe to opposition, the rest of opposition party are in very jeopardy state. I dont put the ruling party up to bring down opposition morale at this point. But I have to wake loved fellow Singaporeans up.

    Hopefully Singaporean have done enough positive deeds and generous mindsets previously to be appreciative of opposition parties so that they can really win, but I doubt Singaporeans have such a good fortune as most of us are self centred about short terms gains about upgrade of hdb, environments, cpf and monetary handouts before election.

    And after that struggling to pay for housing debts and bills and payments to counter cost of living for next 5 years, which the people have been doing actually since again I mentioned GRC, because GRC was first CREATED 25 years ago(if we forgot when the GRC Matrix(the movie) was created to kill democracy from day 1).

    Many non-ruling parties candidates may be sued for defamation, one of them is Nicole Seah maybe, hope by writing this I am protecting them through public eyes……

    Hopefully, opposition becomes stronger, but I doubt so as ruling parties will try ways and means to tear them down and most people like the past elections with capabilities will not want to come into election again, maybe until the day when the cancer of democracy got too serious like we become HK or Japan asset bubbles and higher cost of living. but it would be too late to help.

    I vote THE VOTE of no confidence for ruling party on the high housing prices(my children will not be able to afford hdb due to higher price definitely due to inflation, pegging to market prices, overprinting of money, greed of authorities, high cost of building which by right is not so high), ERP(200 over ERP Gantries standby with some 3-5 Singapore dollars, transport cost including CRAZY TAXI prices which the authorities should allow car pool and waive ERP for Central Business District Area, which would drive up cost of living and even housing prices, mark my words here also),
    no accountability(no independent groups of auditors with members of the public to witness, tally and sign off) and transparency of Reserves, GICs and temasek reserves, Ministers and Super Scale Civil Servant Pays, bonuses and increment and promotion and increase of headcounts each year(plus retrenchments/retirements of older and more senior staffs). Their cost structure have far become too much higher than what they can give Singaporean back year after year. that’s why they tax more and more in various form year after year and this is a form of price inflation of cost of living. Town councils accounts should be audited also.

    page 4 of 6

    The ruling parties have been good for first national building, but they have already lost the balance between national building of well being for people and money making.

    And I intend to leave Singapore as much i don’t want to.
    AGAIN MARK MY WORDS HERE, Singapore WILL soon become Hong Kong and also even Japan, China and India where housing price and cost of living are too high!! It WILL GET OUT OF HAND.

    It is getting harder each day. Pay and pay without knowing why we need to pay more and more, and we piss and piss. Work and work and work for long hours and when we retire still cant take our CPF(maybe cant even fork out any CPF to pay for housing) and think when my retirement age is 80 to 100 years old by then. And I have to pay 30 years for our house.

    I guess Singapore Pte Ltd(not Ltd) has just really becoming a Very Very Very Big MNC(s), even bigger after THIS election….

    Singaporeans will continue to be unwilling boiling frogs, and will continue in a way that they wont even know how, where and when to voice out publicly although deep inside their heart they are very tired working and paying debts and bills.

    I personally guess and believe all these are due to the reserves and loss of GICs and temasek holding that they want to cover up the losses(including in CHINA Suzhou and India and Thailand) that lead to the recent years mania increase of the prices of everything including housing and ERP, non-withdrawal of CPF, retirement age increase.

    No ones want to be left, no ones want to be left at home, no ones want to be forced to leave their homes, but I guess we will.

    The education system is THE SOURCE of why our policies of meritocracy and elite, but all along it is emphasizing in second place morals, ethics and compassion. That’s why now our ruling parties leaders or rather followers are yes men and also more close to the party than the nation. The quality and non monetary motivation of candidates for this election from non-ruling parties are far better than ruling parties despite all odds and doubts of people fear change for the better of democracy and monopolies, but ruling parties are dividing them and conquering them one by one… The balance of conscience is lost.

    Also, the healthcare is too high and also not enough time to take care of health due to cost of living, for example the lower income like contract workers and more than 30000 taxi drivers and many other private bus drivers…

    Upgrading of HDB estate comes with a price, which we have to address the false glory behind it as we are driven so hard so fast to work harder and harder, longer and longer each day. Not sure when we can retire is a scary thing.

    The government only spend 1.6% of GDP to healthcare, that’s why we have to work hard for our hefty and long medical bills. Plus lack of hospitals and healthcare scheme where we are reminded that we are not welfare state, but remember the word we can die, but we cant be sick or ill.

    The lists goes on and on.. I am neither a statistic guy nor a pro-hdb upgrading man(as it is promoting false glory while we work and struggle for livelihood) but I sense as a concerned resident of Singapore and resident of Tampines,
    I urge that Mah Bow Tan(MBT) be removed from election so that he can move on to the private sectors to help ruling parties make more money. George Yeo can retire since they are millionaire, we definitely have talents from non ruling parties.

    If we vote ruling party WITH LANDSLIDE VICTORY USING GRC SYSTEM and they don’t control the situation well, Singaporean might be swarmed with 1000000 to 1500000(1million to 1.5 million) more Foreigners soon that our next generations are squeezed out of Singaporean even they work very very very hard and fast, till the day they die. Filial Piety may be lost from children to their parents and before that parents can afford to have any child and don’t even want to get married like many of my friends above mid 35s, due to cost of living to even support themselves…

    Remember the cooling day tricks… It is not about voting opposition, it is voting for votes of no confidence of ruling party and voting for ourselves and our children not be enslaved by ruling party, be brave and be farsighted..

    To the well-off, powerful and richer people, you might want to rock the boat by allowing GRCs to be biased favourably towards ruling parties, but once the cancer of democracy due to GRC formations are uncurable, the vicious cycle might impact you in vicious cycle manner and even your children in future.

    The MAIN, MAIN reason why ruling party don’t want opposition parties is so that they wont check their billions of dollars lost and cannot account for, since the early day Suzhou Industrial Park losses…

    Be cautioned in advance my beloved Fellow Countrymen.

    Have a GOOD VOTE(there is no best vote, don’t waste your vote to void as opposition need your vote to voice out your real long TERM concerns and NEEDS) using LONG TERM VIEW of balanced multi-parties yet ensure that parties and their candidates are morally, ethically and compassionately and passionately about the people, not just meritocracy and elite system!!

    page 5 of 6

    Bless ourselves and Bless Singaporeans :)..

    Guardians and Forefathers of Singapore help US!!

    Hope the positive and pure balanced energies finally flows in Singapore

    Let there be no over greed, morally, ethically and compassionate government and people through education from young to nurture with patience!!!

    page 6 of 6(final page)

    read http://www.goldclubasia.com/forum to see why ruling party are crappy also

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